Brighton Year-Round 2021
Two female actors play a range of characters in an engaging and entertaining comedy featuring the ecological and social issues faced by a planet similar to our own.
‘The Future Is Unwritten’, founded by writer and director Paul Hodson, has a mission to create socially-driven work that focuses on, involves, inspires and entertains people as participants and audiences’. Planet LOL certainly does that.
The ONCA barge at the Brighton Marina made an atmospheric, interesting and unique setting for this piece. As it was dark, we followed a person with a lantern to enter the venue. Inside, it was sparsely furnished, with a minimal set (designed by Paul Burgess) consisting of flat wooden upright panels, most of which were left as plain wood, but some were painted with grey or blue. There were black coverings at the windows, which enhanced the very effective lighting, designed by Chris Umney, who also designed the sound.
The play began with a film (designed by Paul Burgess), mostly focussed on the mouth of the speaker, shown from an onstage screen. The speaker introduced her character and set the story; then when the film ended our attention was taken by 2 female characters, playing contrasting characters; one more formal and traditional, and the other a modern and seemingly younger person local to Planet LOL, illustrating her talk with a variety of small props connected with her planet.
This second character then revealed more about the planet, and began to use some of the local language (which was very soon translated into English) and slang for some objects and ideas which were familiar items and concepts to us. Planet LOL has similar issues to our own and the problems they are facing are related to ours, so parallels can be easily drawn. Several local references are made to Brighton Marina, but we assume that these would be changed depending of the location of the performance.
The planets’ social structure was illustrated, it being populated with a structural make-up consisting of rings, with social elites inhabiting the innermost ring and graduating to squats in the outermost ring. The main industry of the planet was described, and it’s relationship to it’s people and their way of life. The population of the planet is faced by an impending ecological disaster, related to their main industry and endangering them greatly. This impending disaster is not recognised or believed by many members of the population who consider it to be lies.
Some activists are superglued to a gate as a environmental protest – again , a parallel to our own current situation involving the ‘M25’ protestors.
Many other interesting concepts local to LOL are referred to such as that of a ‘former’ (essentially a ghost) but sadly there is not enough time to develop these ideas fully. The Lol’ers believe that they live for ever, unless they are bad – in which case they become a ‘former’.
One character is referring to clubbing and makes some references to it such as ‘disco biscuit’ and ‘West Street’, which may not be known or understood if the play is watched by a younger audience, but it would amuse an older crowd.
The 2 female actors carried the plot very well, playing a mixture of female and male characters, but it would have worked equally well with two males playing the roles. I didn’t feel that the dialogue between the two performers was female -specific. The characters were very believable and different accents were used – such as Liverpudlian for a Cilla Black – type role, presenting a TV quiz show (another great moment for an older audience, but younger people may not understand this reference).
Towards the end of the play, one character says ‘our whole planet is at risk because of the way we live’ – which would be a good starting discussion point for a workshop with young people. Planet LOL would also work well as a graphic novel, as much of it was physical theatre and would translate well to a prop and scenery-free version for a graphic novel story.
Overall it was a very good show, with excellent and entertaining characters and an engaging and thought- provoking story. The ending, involving choices made by one of the characters, was thought – provoking as well as entertaining and the audience left in a thoughtful state of mind.